Hungary Newsflash Week 45

Organic farming R&D, Spar's expansion, retail commerce figures, nature protection and aquaculture research - The week in Hungarian agriculture

Due to the developing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Hungary has reintroduced the special legal order State of danger, which, along with various new measures, has entered into force on November 4. Here is an English language overview by the news portal Telex.

A wheat ear aesthetically laid on top of a slice of bread
©Klimkin
The new research network operated by ÖMKi has started testing wheat varieties for organic cultivation at seven sites throughout Hungary.

Agro R&D: Grain testing for organic farming

On November 3, the Day of Hungarian Science, the Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi) announced the launch of a new cereal testing network. The network, which will start its operations in grain variety testing at seven locations throughout the country, was established in collaboration with the Food Chain Safety Office (NÉBIH), the Hungarian Seed Association, and seed distribution companies as well as grain research and propagation centers.

Within the new research network, domestic and international wheat varieties which show promise for organic cultivation are being researched in small-plot field experiments. More than twenty varieties are now being tested with the purpose of aiding sustainable, organic farming for which a crucial element is to utilize resilient varieties which can adapt to the local environments.

Director of ÖMKi Dr. Dóra Drexler commented, “With the launch of the national organic small-plot wheat variety testing network, we are taking a big step forward in terms of promoting sustainable agriculture, since we can present the results from seven different Hungarian regions, and help farmers committed to sustainability choose the variety likely to prove most successful for them.” Further details can be found at the institute’s website here.

You can find out more about organic farming in Hungary in our article here and our overview of the difficulties traditional wheat varieties face today because of environmental stress can be found here.

Spar buys meat processing facility in Hungary

Spar Hungary has finalized its purchase of the Zimbo meat factory in Pertál. The meat factory was established by the German meat company RZ-Zimmermann in 1998, and in 2008, the Swiss meat industry leader Bell AG acquired majority ownership. The factory is operated under the company ZIMBO Pertál Húsipari Termelő Kft., and according to the news portal HVG, it booked an after-tax income deficit of €494 million in 2018 and €1.85 million in 2019. According to public record, the company has an annual profit of €23.3 million and 187 employees.

Spar has announced that they intend to coordinate the factory’s operation with the Spar meat factory in Bicske, and that they will also invest in developed refrigeration technologies and introduce the ISO 22 000 food safety standard within a period of two years.

Spar Hungary has an annual profit of €1.75 billion. The company has almost 14 thousand employees and operated 580 supermarkets and grocery stores throughout the country, out of which 200 are franchise shops. With the continued operation of the newly incorporated facility, Spar Hungary’s food production branch will now expand to 600 employees in size.

Retail commerce volume increases

According to the latest Central Statistical Office figures, while retail commerce in September decreased by 2% compared to September 2019, it increased by 1% since August. The commerce in the category The wholesale of other intermediate products increased by 2% after a 0.2% decrease in August. While the volume of trade in retail sale in non-specialised stores with food, beverages or tobacco shops increased by 0.6%, the same figure for food grocery retail (which makes up 75% of the wholesale of other intermediate products category) increased by 2.25%. The contraction in the retail sale of automotive fuel accelerated – While in August, the decrease figure was 4.6%, by September, it reached 9.8%.

There are also statistics available for Q1-Q3 of 2020. Compared to the same period in 2019, retail commerce increased by 0.5%. Food grocery retail and other non-food intermediary products retail increased by 3.5% and 1.1%, respectively, while automotive fuel retail decreased by 9.7%.

Picture of people buying fruits and vegetables at a supermarket.
©Pixabay
According to the latest figures, by September, the volume of retail commerce decreased by 2% compared to September 2019, however, it increased 1% since August.

Can fisheries be more environmentally friendly?

A multi-year research project led by Dr. Árpád Ferincz of the Szent István University has discovered that fish farming in Hungary can potentially put much less stress on the environment than previously thought, reports the university. The project was conducted by the natural water and aquatic ecology research group of the institution.

In the southern watershed of Lake Balaton, there are more than two hundred areas involved in fish farming and traditional wisdom held that these put a large strain on the natural waterways that they connect to. However, the results show that fisheries’ water outflow does show some degradation in water quality parameters, however, these changes are very localized in scale, dependent upon multiple water management factors, and its effects are lesser than natural factors along the waterways. Moreover, the upper segments of waterways, directly connected to fishery outflows, have the highest concentration of invasive fish species as well as the number of fishing catches, however, this is not due to an increased concentration of water nutrients carried into rivers by outflows but rather the influx of specimens which were let out or escaped from fish farm harvesting. Furthermore, the researchers found that water management also plays a huge role, and fish farms with pumping systems have a far lesser environmental effect than natural flow-through fishery systems. This means that the ecological impact of semi-intensive carp farming can be mitigated by simply complying with the already existing regulations.

For more information on the aquaculture sector in Hungary, see our recent article here.

€8.3 million investment into nature protection

The LIFE project Large scale grazing management of the steppe lakes in the Hortobágy has been concluded with an official closing ceremony on Tuesday, reports the news portal Agrárszektor. The €8.3 million project was co-financed by the government and a €7.2 million funding from the EU. Gergely Árpád Medgyesi, head of the nonprofit Hortobágy Nature Protection and Gene Conservation, highlighted that within the project, waterways in the Hortobágy puszta (grass plain) have been restored, and fragile ecosystems providing habitats for endemic birds have returned to their natural state.

Deputy State Secretary Dr. András Rácz of the Ministry of Agriculture commented that so far Hungary has coordinated 38 LIFE-projects with a total budget of €86 million, out of which €60.7 million was EU funding and that multiple of these were LIFE award winners, including the project for the protection of the endemic rákosi vipera (Vipera ursinii rakosiensis), the eastern imperial eagle project and the Pannon Seed Bank project.